Water based Polyurethane and Solvent based Uretahane - Comparison

Comparison between - Water based Polyurethane (PU) and Solvent based Uretahane Varnish (UV)-coatings (aka. Oil Based finish) on cork floors

Direct comparison between water based PU coatings and solvent based UV coatings can be difficult. There is tremendous variation inside each classification that makes side by side comparisons difficult. Here are a few of the basic concepts comparing water based Polyurethane (PU) and solvent based (aka Oil based) Urethane coatings over cork.


Water Based PU coatings

 Solvent/oil Based UV Coating


Natural look and high transparency. The structure of cork is kept alive. Very smooth factory produced surface due to “curtain”
machine application.

More artificial look with less transparency. Cork appears to be coated in plastic foil. Coating structure is often visible because of the factory application by “roller” machines.

Re-varnishing and Renovation

Water Based coatings can be easily recoated. Toplack CM allows site finishing with water based PU in order to give an additional layer of wear resistance; protect the joints in high traffic or wet areas or to cover surface faults
(no sanding!).  With WS 2K or 2K Supra AT the adhesion is perfect.

Reapplication of site finish is tricky,  and only possible IF  the intermediate sanding is perfect. If sanding between coats is less than perfect, loss of adhesion will occur (bubbling and peeling). Anti-scratch finishes such as Aluminum Oxide and ceramic or nano-bead additives are hard to refinish.  Attempts at site-finishing these slick compounds often ends in failure of the surface and a ruined finish.


Easy to maintain. No problem with the
adhesion of maintenance products such as LOBA Cork Care).

The adhesion of maintenance products (water based dispersions or site applied polishes) is sometimes problematic. The market is aware of these issues.  Only specialty products are allowed to be used  and each finish requires its own, factory produced maintenance products.

Solid content

30 – 35 %


VOC Emission

There are small quantities of solvents in
water based formulations. The small amount of VOC emissions
(volatile organic compounds) occur just after application and during the drying time.
These emissions decrease
exponentially to reach near-zero
after a few weeks because no SVOC
(semi volatile organic compounds) are

Due to solvent free formulations, low VOC emissions appear after application and curing BUT
uncured monomers, photo initiators and its fission products off-gas SVOC emissions for a long
period of time. Another down side to UV coatings is there can be no curing in the absence of light (which can be problematic with the porous surface of cork). UV or solvent based products run the risk of smell problems. Customer complaints about excessive smell persist for weeks after full cure has been achieved.

Wear resistance

Acceptable “residential” wear ratings for 1-Part water based coatings. Very good wear resistance of 2K (2 component) water based coatings (WS 2K or 2K Supra AT). The 2K products are recommended for use in domestic and commercial areas (according to EN
14354). The advancement of 2K technology has allowed ceramic infusion to be added and wear resistance is now considered “exceptional” with this additive.

Generally good wear resistance for UV-coatings. These products are acceptable for both heavy residential and light commercial use.  Addition of Aluminum Oxide, ceramic/nano-beads improves the abrasion resistance and qualifies special products for commercial areas (according to EN 14354).

Industrial application

“Roller” and “curtain” machine application is
commonly used.  Limited line speed because of
time needed for evaporation of water. Plenty of factory space is required for the drier. Profiling and packaging allowed only after drying overnight.

Roller machine application is commonly used.  Productivity is high due to fast cure and fast line speed.  Packaging is allowed immediately after curing. Reduced warehouse capacity required because of reduced drying requirements.

Impact resistance

Good impact resistance. With WS 2K or 2K Supra AT. Extremely good impact resistance can be
achieved without splitting or cracking of the finish.

Good impact resistance. The addition of Aluminum Oxide, ceramic or nano-bead particles
increase brittle finish which degrades impact resistance (cracking and splitting is possible).

Scratch resistance

Medium scratch resistance of 1K and WS 2K water based coatings. Scratch resistance increases with addition of ceramic beads such as the 2K Supra AT.

High scratch resistance can be achieved with Aluminum Oxide, ceramic/nano-bead particles. Full “anti-scratch” finishes are now possible but not recommend for cork due to brittleness of finish.

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